Punahou hungry for revenge against Kahuku in Open Division final

Nov. 24—When Punahou (9-1 ) and defending champion Kahuku (11-2 ) clash in the Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank /HHSAA Football State Championships on Friday night, the hungrier team might just be the Buffanblu.

When Punahou (9-1 ) and defending champion Kahuku (11-2 ) clash in the Open Division final of the First Hawaiian Bank /HHSAA Football State Championships on Friday night, the hungrier team might just be the Buffanblu.

From 2005 to'14, Punahou made six appearances in the state final, winning in'08 and'13 under then-coach Kale Ane. In'21, the first season since the pandemic began, Punahou's hopes were crushed with an abbreviated 1-4 season.

"Having a full off-season was important for our program to really establish a standard—a program culture—that defines the type of football we want to play, " Buffanblu coach Nate Kia said. "And the type of team we want to be."

When the Buffanblu visited Kahuku on Sept. 3, they had the ball inside the 10-yard line in the final minute with a chance to tie or take the lead. Kahuku prevailed with a 27-20 nonconference win. A rematch in the state championships seemed inevitable.—RELATED :

"This group has reset the program. They have rebuilt our program on a standard of excellence. It's not just X's and O's, or size and speed. It's about being relentless and being disciplined, and earning the trust of your team, " Kia said.

Kahuku has continued to thrive in the evolutionary stage of its offense under coach Sterling Carvalho. Bringing the past and present together, the four-wide attack can shift to a power formation from one snap to the next. The return of standout wide receiver, returner and kicker Kainoa Carvalho three games ago is a boost. He did not play in the first matchup with Punahou, but Waika Crawford still passed for 250 yards and two TDs.

Missing this time, though, is RB Clyde Taulapapa (knee ). Kahuku has not missed a beat, winning six of its past seven games. The only loss during the run was to nationally ranked Saint Frances (Md.)

"We've got players back who were injured and didn't play that last game against Punahou, " coach Carvalho said. "Also, our younger players got more experience throughout the season."